Valerian root is the part of the plant used for medicinal purposes. The root is pressed into fresh juice or is freeze-dried to form powder. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, valerian works by increasing the amount of gamma aminobutyric acid, a chemical found in the brain. This chemical helps to regulate nerve cells and creates a calming effect on anxiety.
Valerian root is an effective sedative and is used to treat hyperactivity, anxiety, restlessness and even insomnia. This herb works well when given to dogs before and after a situation that makes them nervous, such as a long car ride, a trip to the vet or thunderstorms.
This herb comes in several different forms. Tinctures are available in alcohol or alcohol-free bases, while powdered valerian root is sold as a tea or in the form of capsules. Variations of valerian root preparations sometimes contain ingredients other than the herb. Be sure when purchasing valerian root you are getting a preparation safe for use in dogs. A veterinarian can provide you with information on what to avoid.
Administering Valerian Root
To give your dog tinctures of this herb, use a plastic dropper or syringe, and insert it into the mouth of your dog, aiming to get the liquid directly down the throat. If you have the dried form, sprinkle it over small amounts of your dog’s food. Capsules can also be broken apart and the inner powder sprinkled over food. In tea form, brew the tea and allow it to cool before giving it to your dog, either as a drink or poured over his food. Dosages depend on the severity of the anxiety as well as the health and weight of your dog. Consult with a holistic veterinarian to get the proper dosage.
This herb can cause digestive upset if used in large dosages. Do not use valerian root in pregnant dogs.